Mobile clinic expands range, takes health services to residents

The Lansing area's only Mobile Health Care Clinic that brought health care to residents last fall is en route again this spring, providing free basic health care to hundreds of residents in city neighborhoods and other sites.

Housed in a bus renovated by Dean Transportation, the mobile clinic was piloted in September 2016, and represents a partnership between Sparrow and the Ingham County Health Department. The clinic will make three visits to six Ingham County sites starting in early April—up from four sites during the pilot phase. The 2017 sites include the Allen Neighborhood Center, Baker Donora neighborhood, Edgewood Village Apartments, Capital Area Career Center.

"We want to try and spread ourselves out to cover as much of the footprint of this community as possible," says Stella Cash, Sparrow vice president of development and strategic partnerships. "Our common goal is to serve a group of our population that is very vulnerable and that might not receive health care until they end up in an emergency situation."

The clinic is open to anyone and provides adult and childhood immunizations, flu shots, education, diabetes checks, and screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, lead, glucose and more. While the primary goal is to provide access to care, mobile clinic staff also refer patients to community resources to address other needs like clothing, food and shelter. Expanded services this year may include mammograms and colon screening provided through Sparrow or the Ingham County Health Department.

"Healthy people make for a healthy community," says Linda Vail, chief health officer for the Ingham County Health Department. "But what we find with people who are in poverty or low-income or lacking insurance is that preventive care doesn't come to the top of the list when they're attending to basic needs like getting food on the table or getting to a job. Our question is how do we eliminate barriers and get health care to you on top of all the other things you have to do in your life."

Ted Glynn, Sparrow Health Systems vice president of medical education and research, was part of the team that helped develop the mobile unit. He is among nearly 10 physicians, trained medical staff and wellness specialists on the ground and delivering care through the various site visits.

Glynn draws on a depth of experience from having worked in emergency medicine for 20 years—both in Lansing and the southern U.S. One of the major frustrations, he says, was seeing the inequity of care across populations—particularly the uninsured or impoverished. He says that while the ER served as a safety net, he always felt there was a better way to help people sooner so they wouldn't be as sick as when they showed up for emergency care or in the ICU.

"It doesn't work anymore to just provide episodic care in silos," says Glynn. "Our hope is that we're upstream in delivering care right to the doorstep of those who need it—right in the heart their neighborhood—and to address the medical as well as the social determinants of health."

Glynn reports that 130 patients registered at the fall pilot program sites, with 16 percent of those being uninsured. The mobile unit is funded through partnerships as well as through donations to the Sparrow Foundation from businesses and individuals.

Source: Stella Cash, Vice President of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Sparrow Health Systems
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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